Sample Term Paper
Langston Hughes is the voice for black culture in White America. He achieves fame as a poet during the Harlem Renaissance, a period in America primarily between the 1920s and 1930s. From novels and plays to newspaper articles and poetry, Hughes writes about what he knows – the perspective of a black man living in a white world. Instead of representing the “angry black man,” his commentary on society has humor and intelligence.
Hughes’s career spans from the Harlem Renaissance movement of the 1920s through the counterculture revolution of the 1960s. His writings express themes shared by those of his literary colleagues: a fascination with African heritage, resentment about the injustices of racism, and the demand for a new identity and cultural acceptance (McConnell, 186). Hughes’s poems, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” (1921) and “Dinner Guest: Me” (1967), discusses how black history shapes him as a person during two different time periods – one in which blacks are still segregated and another where radical change make blacks an object of fascination by the upper echelons of white society.
Hughes’s youth marks a transition period in his life. In the 1920s, Hughes leaves the Midwest for New York to attend Columbia University and then ventures through Africa and Europe before returning to the United States. These travels profoundly impact Hughes. Living outside of America, he struggles with finding his own identity and feels inferior among white society when he returns (McConnell, 47).
In his poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” Hughes gets in touch with his past as a way to assert his individuality and create solidarity in the black community (McConnell, 187). At age 19, he writes this poem while traveling on a train that crosses the Mississippi and dedicates it to NAACP Founder W.E.B. Du Bois, his mentor, and friend (Magill, 413).
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